Woah! It’s the holiday season already! Please allow me to be the first (or just the latest) person to wish you a happy holiday.
For the last eight years, I’ve written an end-of-year reflection on the City of Encinitas’ top accomplishments, along with a preview of what’s to come based on my experiences as Mayor and City Councilmember.
And this is my final email to you as Mayor! It’s been the honor of my lifetime to serve as the mayor of the city where my great grandparents put down roots 100 years ago. Thank you for entrusting me with your confidence across four local elections, and last month’s fifth election to represent District 38 as your new state senator.
In 2016, after my first two years on the Encinitas City Council, the mayor’s baton was passed to me from our first elected mayor, Kristin Gaspar. Now, six years later, I’m turning over that baton to Tony Kranz. Each of us runs the relay for a relatively short time, and it’s important to make the most of that time.
I look back fondly on those eight years – our elected leaders, together with the community, really did a lot! I’m also excited about what future leaders will bring to our beloved city. It’s a satisfying feeling to cheer on the next generation.
Our successes in Encinitas have been about the projects we’ve built – and the community character we’ve retained. I’ve prioritized both of these values in my approach to governance.
The individual things we’ve done to preserve and enhance our community character can sometimes appear small, but they add up to a significant result.
Some examples of these preservation mini-achievements are retaining the historic ficus trees downtown, preserving the right-of-way in the streets that we used to give away to private property owners and now keep for the public good, deciding not to sell the old Cardiff fire station that almost became surplus, rejecting the Surfer’s Point development project on our city’s northern border with Carlsbad, and leasing, instead of selling, the city’s land under the Habitat for Humanity homes built in Leucadia.
At the risk of sounding immodest, Encinitas’ progress on infrastructure and housing has been impressive. Here are the highlights:
1. Getting right with state housing law. After three-and-a-half decades, the City of Encinitas is finally in compliance with state housing laws that require all cities to make room for housing affordable to lower income people and not just affluent, upper income residents.
Income-diverse cities create a more vibrant and just society. Preserving our community’s character depends on the wide variety of people who can call our city home.
I have to tell you, it was tough to lead the city as the mayor through that housing element process. I hope the community desire for townhomes, granny flats, tiny homes, apartments and all types of housing that can accommodate a range of people at different cycles in their lives continues to grow and satisfy the needs of all Encinitans.
2) It takes leadership to re-create public space. We’ve become a more bikeable and walkable place to live. I started my civic involvement in Encinitas on the city’s Traffic Commission, where I saw our potential for major improvements.
Some of our infrastructure highlights include building the Coastal Rail Trail in Cardiff, the physically protected bike lanes on Highway 101, new beach sand dunes, the transformative Leucadia Streetscape project, which includes the new pedestrian rail undercrossing at El Portal – plus roundabouts, green bike lanes, trail connections in Olivenhain and many other projects. The huge number of bike and pedestrian improvements in and around the San Elijo Lagoon and our city’s southern border with Solana Beach that were built by SANDAG and Caltrans are similarly epic.
The difficult parts were generating consensus on design, finding the funding, managing public objections on individual projects, and then actually prioritizing and building.
We’ve had a singular period of transportation improvement in Encinitas over the last eight years that unquestionably benefits, families, commuters, outdoor enthusiasts, and everyone else who lives, works or plays here.
3) Giving voice to the value of inclusion and diversity. During my term as mayor, we started flying the Pride flag every June, formed an Equity Committee, approved more affordable housing units than any previous council, supported womens’ right to choose in Encinitas, made our city services more accessible for Spanish-speakers, opened a Safe Parking program to help those sleeping in cars get back into housing, supported artists having a city-based home to showcase their talents at Pacific View, required safe storage for gun owners, among many other, justice-based actions.
Embracing our fellow humans and the many life experiences that each person brings to their journey on this planet is the core of being an Encinitan, Californian, and American. We undertook this challenge seriously – and joyously!
4) Environmental Leadership. We went beyond just talking about fighting climate change. Our city opted for 100% renewable energy as the default energy provider; wrote a gold star, enforceable climate action plan; dramatically reduced waste and plastic at all events hosted in the city; were early adopters of the green waste composting program with our trash hauler EDCO; converted an underused city hall parking lot to a public-serving electric vehicle charging station, and built a whole lot of infrastructure to help people move around without a car, as I described above.
5) I’m happy to have helped appoint great candidates that the city’s voters then elected. One of the most satisfying aspects of my job has been “building the bench,” keeping an eye peeled for dynamic and diverse future leaders. Joe Mosca is our city’s first openly LGBTQ City Council member, who filled the City Council seat I vacated when elected mayor.
We have an impressive history of female leadership in Encinitas – out of a total of 19 mayors since incorporation, 12 have been women! Tasha Boerner Horvath ran for City Council with our encouragement – and she’s now our esteemed and successful Assemblymember.
Councilmember and passionate bicycle advocate Jody Hubbard was elected, but resigned shortly before tragically passing from cancer less than two years into her term. Her able appointed successor Joy Lyndes has proven herself a solid leader – the voters just elected her. And finally, I’m proud that we appointed the remarkable Kellie Shay Hinze, who the voters resoundingly elected (and has recently welcomed a delightful baby into the City Hall family).
Our new Mayor Tony Kranz preceded me in local office, and we’ve developed a deep and true friendship over our many years in office together. His governance taps into a deep knowledge and insight about the roots of our city, and he’s committed to the continuity of past, present and future. I am confident and excited to pass the baton to Tony and I’m looking forward to seeing what Encinitas accomplishes under his leadership.
6) Pacific View was saved and the art center construction is underway!
I’m so happy that before I left office we allocated $7 million to get this historical bluffside city asset up and open to the public. After hoping that local nonprofits or other philanthropists could actualize this site, it became clear that the city needed to act – and the work has now begun.
As your state senator, I intend to continue to do whatever I can to support our community in turning Pacific View into the art and culture treasure it was meant to be.
A very touching farewell
Last Tuesday, a special City Council meeting was held to recognize my tenure at the city. I knew the occasion was going to be nice, but I was not prepared for the all love and positivity that filled the chamber, from colleagues, staff and residents. It was truly overwhelming.
If you couldn’t be there, these photos above may give you an idea of how special this celebration was. In the shot at the very top, you can see our two teenagers on Tuesday, and behind them are photos of how YOUNG they were when I was first sworn in back in 2014!
Here’s a lovely story about that happy event from the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Encinitas Advocate, “Encinitas bids adieu to Catherine Blakespear as she heads to state legislature.”
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
So now the chapter of my letters to you as Encinitas Mayor comes to an end.
But I’ll still be in touch with you with newsletters as your California State Senator.
I’m in Sacramento as I write this, and I’ll be sworn into office at the Capitol today, Monday, at high noon! You can watch by going to https://www.senate.ca.gov and clicking the livestream link on the right-hand side, under “Today’s Events.”
As this extraordinary era fades away, it’s important that you know none of these achievements and events could have happened without your support over the years – the credit belongs to you!
With poignant gratitude,